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If you want to provide the best living conditions to your fish, it is very important to keep your tank clean, and this means everything that is inside the tank should be clean including the gravel. A lot of fish keepers put gravel inside their tanks to create a natural look and provide a natural filter inside the tank. But you should know that before putting the gravel into the tank, you have to wash it. Apart from that, once you have put it in the tank, you will have to take it out and rewash and reclean it periodically. This is done to ensure the proper hygiene inside your aquarium because if you put unclean gravel into your tank, you will put your whole ecosystem of the tank at risk.

Konjadewa, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Unclean gravel can contain soil, which will make the water muddy. Unclean gravel may also contain pathogens and bacteria that might attack your fish and harm them. For these reasons, you need to wash gravel before putting it into the tank. The gravel you put inside your tank would filter the soil, and algae from the water and it would act as a natural filter. But over time, the algae growth will overtake your gravel completely if you do not take it out and clean it. That is why you need to take the gravel out of your aquarium and clean it. Below is a complete guide about the fish tank gravel, and how to clean it?

What Is Fish Tank Gravel?

Fish tank gravel is the type of gravel that is used for aquariums. Fish keepers put this gravel into their tanks to create a natural look. The use of gravel is very important in most cases. If your fish species lives in places where there are a lot of small stones, you will have to use the gravel in your tank. Gravel acts as a substrate in the bottom layer of the tank. Using gravel has multiple benefits, for example, it is not very sharp and that protects the fish from getting injured. If you use stones or pebbles instead of gravel for fish tanks, you will be risking the lives of your fish.

Your fish would visit the bottom layer and would get injured because of the hard and sharp edges of stones and pebbles. For that reason, it is important to put gravel into the tank. Not only that, but it also protects the water from being overrun by the algae, and other pathogens as it traps most of them into the folds. It acts as a natural filter and when water movements push algae and bacteria towards the bottom, the layers of substrate trap these harmful elements and help you maintain a healthy environment.

Why Do You Need To Put Gravel In Your Tank?

Here are a few reasons that explain why you should put gravel in your fish tank.

●     Acts As A Natural Filter

Gravel as mentioned above acts as a natural filter in your tank and helps you keep the environment clean. Also, it helps you maintain the pH, and hardness of your tank. It is not like a layer of sand or sediment that prevents the flow of water from the surface below. Instead, it allows the water to reach the bottom layer of the tank and move through the layers of substrate. This helps you prevent bacterial growth at the bottom of your tank. Also, when you are feeding your fish, some of that food will end up in the bottom layer.

The layers of sand or any other substrate would cause that food to quickly decompose, hence causing a sudden change in Carbon levels in your tank. But if you are using a layer of fish tank gravel, you will be able to avoid this. Gravel prevents the decomposing bacteria from growing and allows the filter in your tank to quickly filter the excess food that you put in the tank. That is why it is important to put the fish tank gravel in your aquarium.

●     Replicates Natural Habitat Conditions

Putting fish tank gravel in your aquariums also helps you replicate the natural habitat and living conditions of your fish. For example, there are a lot of fish species that live in places where there are a lot of stones and pebbles in their natural habitat. As I mentioned earlier, putting the sharp stones, and pebbles in your tank is not a great idea, instead you can use the fish tank gravel to provide the same living conditions.

So, if you are looking for alternatives to stones for your tank, selecting gravel is the right choice. Gravel is available in multiple colors and varieties that can make your habitat replicate any type of underwater condition. Making it a perfect choice for your aquariums.

●     Looks Good In Aquariums

Some fishkeepers also love to use fish tank gravel in their aquariums because this gravel comes in multiple types, colors, and varieties. This means you can decorate your tank according to your choices to make it look more aesthetic and beautiful. This is something that you cannot do with normal stones, and or other types of substrate. This makes the gravel a better choice in most cases.

Why Is It Important to Wash/Clean Fish Tank Gravel?

If you do not wash or clean fish tank gravel before putting it in your tank, you will put the whole ecosystem of your tank at risk. For example, new unclean gravel may contain bacteria or mud. When you put that unclean gravel in your tank, water would clean it and all of the contaminants will be transferred from the gravel to your water. First of all, it would make your tank look unclean and muddy for weeks.

If you can clean it somehow, there will be a risk of bacterial diseases in your tank. But if you clean it and wash it before putting it into your aquarium, you can avoid all of this. Secondly, you will need to periodically clean the fish tank gravel that you have put in your tank. This is important because your fish tank gravel would keep filtering algae, and solid food that you put in your tank. This needs to be cleaned otherwise, the food would start to decompose and that can put the entire tank at risk. But you can also prevent this by properly cleaning your fish tank gravel.

How To Clean Fish Tank Gravel?

When it comes to cleaning the fish tank gravel which is already in the tank, you have two options. First, do it using vacuum machines, and second, do it without a vacuum machine. If your gravel is new and you haven’t put it in your aquarium, you can wash it with water and let it dry. Repeat the process two to three times and then you can use it for the aquarium. But if your gravel is already in the tank, the process becomes complicated. Because you will have to get the gravel out of the tank to clean it. To do this correctly, you need to follow these steps.

1.   Create A New Temporary Tank

When you are about to clean your fish tank gravel, you will need a new tank or container to hold your fish. Because you can’t keep your fish out of the water while you are washing and cleaning the gravel. For this purpose, you should create a temporary tank that replicates the same conditions as the original. You can use a smaller container for this purpose as it will be the home of your aquarium fish for a few hours.

A lot of fish keepers make this mistake, they use smaller pots or bottles, or bowls to contain their aquarium fish. It is a wrong choice because these items are too small and it is hard to maintain the parameters and water quality in these containers. It is better to prepare a completely separate tank that is reusable for various other purposes such as breeding your fish or to be used as a hospital tank for fish with contagious diseases.

2.   Transfer Your Fish To New Tank

After you are done with creating a new temporary tank for your aquarium fish. You will have to fill that tank, maintain parameters, and then transfer the fish from the original tank to the temporary tank. Do it quickly, and do not keep the fish out of water for a long time as that can cause severe oxygen shortage in the bloodstream of your fish. Once your fish has been transferred, you will have to make sure that they are comfortable in their new environment.

Observe them for a few hours to see if they react badly to this change. If the water quality is not good, or there are any issues with tank conditions, you will notice behavioral changes in your aquarium fish. If you see any signs of distress or issues with behavior, you should try to adjust the water parameters of your tank. You should test the pH levels, temperature, hardness, and salinity of your tank to see if everything is alright, otherwise, make adjustments according to the requirements.

3.   Unplug and Remove all Accessories

Once you have transferred all of your fish from the original tank that you are cleaning to a temporary tank, you will have to start unplugging all of the devices that are in your container or aquarium. For example, water pump, heater, thermometer, lights, filtration system. Before removing any of these items from your aquarium, it is important to make sure that everything has been unplugged.

After that, you will have to start working on the removal of these objects from your tank. If you are cleaning your whole tank, you should also take out the decorations, caves, driftwood, large structures, or anything that you put in your aquarium. It will help you clean the whole tank easily. You should also remove any plants that you may have put in your aquarium before taking out and cleaning the gravel.

4.   Remove Water

The next step in this process is to remove water from your tank. Now, there are two different ways of doing this. You can use a vacuum kit that can suck the water out of your tank and into a bucket. But if you do not have a vacuum kit you can use something else to help you remove the water out of the tank.

You can scoop the water out of your tank using a bucket and a small bowl. It will take some time but you can do it without the vacuum kit. However, a lot of professional fish keepers advise having a fish tank cleaning kit or vacuum kit to help you remove water. It makes the job easy for you and you can do it quickly.

5.   Take Gravel Out

After you have extracted the water from your aquarium, it will be time for you to start taking gravel out. This is again a slow and painful procedure that requires taking all of the gravel out of your aquarium. You can only wash and clean the gravel once it is out of the aquarium. So make sure to get everything out of the aquarium and keep collecting it in a bucket.

6.   Clean It Thoroughly

The next step is to clean the gravel that you have taken out of your tank. You can do it in multiple ways. For example, some people put their gravel in the bucket, put clean water in the bucket, and pour detergent, or cleaner. You can also use vigorous stirring, shaking, or putting your gravel into a spin. Spinning would help you clean most of your gravel. After that, take the gravel out, rinse it, spread it over a washed cloth, and let it dry in the warm sunlight. After 30 to 40 minutes, you should repeat the whole process twice.

Once you are done with cleaning, you can put the dry gravel back in your tank. Before using any chemical products on your gravel, you should read the cleaning instructions specific to your gravel. Most of the time these are written on the package of gravel. This is important because some types of artificial gravel require a specific type of cleaning and you cannot wash them using detergent as they are sensitive to chemicals in detergent.

7.   Put Gravel Back

Before putting the gravel back into the aquarium, you should watch it without any chemicals, rinse it, and let it dry in daylight. The next step in this process is to put the gravel back into your aquarium. You should only do it after a complete inspection of your gravel to make sure that it has been cleaned. It is better to do it slowly and keep checking the gravel while you are pouring it into the tank.

8.   Put Back All Accessories

After you are done checking and putting the gravel back into your tank. It is time for you to start putting all of your tank accessories back into the tank. You must clean your accessories, tank, and gravel all at the same time. This will help you keep the environment more protected and clean.

You should start with the bottom layer, put the gravel back, then plants, caves, driftwood, and any other decorations. Then start putting all of the equipment that you took out of the tank such as a heater, filtration system, lights, and any other gadgets that you had kept in your tank. Put everything back and replug them so that you can prepare your tank for the fish.

9.   Refill Your Tank With Clean Water

Now, you should start filling your tank with clean water. It is important to use tested, cleaned, or filtered water. Because if you are using the old water without cleaning or filtration, you will be making a huge mistake. All of the pathogens that you were trying to kill now will be able to enter your clean tank. You should use water that is according to the parameters of fish and has been filtered using reverse osmosis.

10.                Reintroduce Your Fish

At this stage, your fish tank gravel is clean, and your tank is ready for you. Fish. You just need to take your fish out of the temporary tank and reintroduce them into your clean tank. After that, you should observe the behavior of your fish to notice any anomaly. If there are any behavioral changes or you see any signs of stress, this would indicate that you need to change the aquarium conditions.

Bottom Line

It is important to maintain proper hygiene in your aquarium. For that purpose, you need to wash the gravel before putting it into your fish tank. Also, you should wash the gravel that is already in your tanks periodically. This is important because the gravel cleaning helps you get rid of a lot of harmful bacteria and pathogens that can grow in the bottom layer if you fail to maintain proper hygiene. The cleaning process of fish tank gravel is easy. You just need to follow the steps that are mentioned above to successfully clean your tank.


Question: Is gravel available in different colors?

Answer: Yes, fish tank gravel is available in multiple colors, types, and sizes. This is because a lot of different gravel manufacturers use different materials, chemicals, and paints. It is done to beautify the presence of gravel in your tank and make your tank look aesthetic and beautiful. You can easily buy the gravel of your personal color choice to make your tank look more appealing to you.

Question: Why is gravel important for your tank?

Answer: Fish Tank gravel has a lot of advantages for the fish keepers and that is why it is important for your fish tank. For example, fish tank gravel is a natural filter that allows the movement of water beneath it. It helps you prevent the growth of bacteria and pathogens at the bottom of your tank. Also, it prevents the food from decomposing in your tank as it helps in slowing the decomposition process. So that you can remove the excess food before it starts to decompose. Also, the fish tank gravel is used for its beauty and aesthetic looks.

Question: How much gravel do you need for your tank?

Answer: A lot of fish keepers have different say on this matter. According to some fish keepers, you should only get a small amount of gravel for your tank. But others advise that you should get enough gravel that it can cover three inches in your tank. You can select the gravel according to your personal choice but between 1.5 to 2.5 inches layer of gravel would be enough for most fish.

Question: Who often should you clean your tank gravel?

Answer: cleaning your fish tank gravel is very important in maintaining a hygienic and healthy environment for your fish. For that purpose, you need to clean your tank periodically. You should clean your tank at least 1 a month or every 45 days. If you don’t clean it, the habitat of your tank will become hostile for the fish inside and they will die.

Question: Do you need any equipment to clean fish tank gravel?

Answer: There are some machines available for cleaning fish tank gravel. For example, there are complete vacuum kits made for this purpose that you can buy. But if you don’t want to spend your money on these products, you can just do it manually. It takes extra time but you can do it if you want.

Question: Can you keep the fish in the tank while cleaning?

Answer: No, it is not a great idea to keep the fish in the tank while you are cleaning the gravel. This is because you will have to remove all of the water from your tank. Even if you are using a vacuum kit to clean your tank, you still need to be very careful if your fish are inside the tank. There can be several issues as you will have to turn everything else off. For that reason, it is better to remove your fish from the tank while you are cleaning it.

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